Month: July 2014

Art, isn’t that a man’s name?

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semiconductor photoresist

I come from a family of geeks. Not internet geeks, mind you, but living, breathing, original 60’s, 70’s, & 80’s geeks. Father, mother, both brothers – all computer nerds. These people were online about 20 years before Google even became a word. We can even lay claim to a family member (to remain nameless) making national news for an entire week as a young teenager for cracking his school’s computer code, narrowly escaping notoriety only by wisely choosing not to do anything malicious. He just did it for the challenge.

As the lone artist living amongst a houseful of computer folk, I always felt like a bit of an outsider; my focus was always, and has only been, art. Not that I don’t enjoy computers, I do, I just never delved into it the way they did because, frankly, in comparison I would always be behind the curve.

It was, therefore, with great pleasure that I recently felt our worlds finally collide in a fortuitous manner. The following thoughts on light are excerpted from a note from my dad;

I was very involved in the design aspects of semiconductor memory chips. One technology used was very much like silkscreen art, but on a much finer scale, with dimensions in the millionths of centimeters. The 1 cm x 1 cm semiconductor chip would be coated with a photoresist, then exposed to visible light shined through a mask. The exposed areas not defined by the mask would be acid-etched away, and a pattern of millions of conductors would be left on the surface
of the chip. Then another layer, etc… As the demand for memory grew, larger and larger chips would be needed, which exponentially increased the cost, unless the masks could be made to smaller and smaller tolerances.. which is what we did, until the lines on the mask were so close together that visible light would not penetrate through the mask to expose the photoresist. Technically, the issue was that the wavelength of visible light was longer than the spaces on the mask it had to go through. The solution was to go to a different light source – ultraviolet – which had a shorter wavelength than visible light, and to develop a photoresist that would work with it.

A fascinating process, finding the art in science, and the science in art. 

‘Art, isn’t that a man’s name?’   quote by Andy Warhol


Looking at Art

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Hiroshi Sugimoto's Glass Tea House in Venice Biennale, photo by Martino Piertropoli
Hiroshi Sugimoto’s ‘Glass Tea House Mondrian’ at the Venice Biennale, photos by Martino Piertropoli

Recently, dear friend and collaborator Martino Pietropoli posted images from his visit to Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Glass Tea House Mondrian at the Venice Biennale, on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore . While googling it, I came across a notice that Sugimoto also currently had an exhibition up at San Francisco’s Fraenkel Gallery, which would be ending the following week.

My daughter and I rushed into the city late that Saturday afternoon to catch the show an hour before closing. We entered, realizing to our delight that we were the only ones there, able to view & discuss the art freely. A short while later, however, we heard someone behind us enter and begin snapping photos. When we moved to step back so he could get a better shot he demurred, explaining that he wanted photos with us intentionally in the shot. He turned out to be professional photographer Richard Nagler, who’d just published Looking at Art, the Art of Looking, a book about the relationship between artwork and the viewer, and their interdependant dynamic. He was kind enough to forward me a photo of us examining Sugimoto’s piece titled In Praise of Shadows, itself a tribute to the Jun’inchiro Tanazaki’s book, with the following text:

Japanese novelist Jun’ichiro Tanizaki disdained the “violent” artificial light wrought by modern civilization. I, too, am an anachronist: rather than live at the cutting edge of the contemporary, I feel more at ease in the absent past. 

Domesticating fire marks humankind’s ascendancy over other species. For tens of thousands of years, we have illuminated the night with flames. Reflecting upon this, I decided to record “the life of the candle”. Late one midsummer night, I thre open the windows and invited in the night breeze. Lighting a candle, I opened my camera lens. After several hours of wavering in the breeze, the candle burned out. Savoring the dark, I slowly closed the shutter. The candle’s life varied on any given night – short, intensely burning nights and long, constantly glowing lights – each different, yet equally lovely in its afterglow.


I left thinking about a Paulo Coelho quote from the book The Alchemist: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

Sadie and Deb looking at Hiroshi Sugimoto's In Praise of Shadows. Photo courtesy of Richard Nagler.
Deb & daughter Sadie looking at Hiroshi Sugimoto’s In Praise of Shadows.                                     Photo courtesy of Richard Nagler.